Aug 312014
 

I touched on this topic briefly yesterday, unintentionally and tangentially, but the truth is that if you like to read—and I do—there are many free reading sources out there, besides your local library. That is, of course, if you own or use a tablet, laptop, desktop or smart phone. These free resources are located mostly in the public domain, or they have become available for free through a Creative Commons license. This is great news for those who write, produce films, or create anything, for reading represents one of those artist dates that writer Julia Cameron of The Artist’s Way says we all need to make with ourselves to fill up our creative well with ideas, impressions and intentions. It’s one of the least expensive ways we can use to boost our imagination batteries. Take fairy tales, for instance, and consider the images they evoke, and where these images might take you when you tap into your creativity.

Oregon artist Lucille Miles of  Sarita of Forest Whimsy, for example, created this whimsical mermaid bed using a mattress of needle felted wool as the foundation for her piece.

Mermaid Bed

Virginia ceramic artist Sandy Robertson of Enchanted Mushroom Land describes her fairy door below as an “Enchanted Home for the wee folk in your life.”

Fairy Door

Might Peter Pan’s Tinkerbell been the inspiration for these gorgeous fairy wing earrings, designed by Canadian artist Jaci of Seelie Court?

Fairy Wing Earrings

The hair stick below, carved in holly wood by artist Tanja Sova of North Carolina, was obviously inspired by tales of unicorns.

Unicorn Hair Stick

Who doesn’t picture Red Riding Hood’s cape exactly as shown below? The beautiful wood blend cape was sewn by Chrononaut Mercantile, located in Maine.

Red Riding Hood Cape

Ohio’s Debra Faulkner of His Paisley Queen takes us on a magical carpet ride with this truly amazing hammock.

Magic Carpet Ride Hammock

According to American fantasy, science fiction, and children’s book writer Jane Yolen,”The tales of Elfland do not stand or fall on their actuality but on their truthfulness, their speaking to the human condition, the longings we all have for the Faerie Other.” If Jane is correct—and I think she is—fairy tales have the power to make us search deep inside ourselves for human truths. I can’t help thinking of the modern novel by John Gardner, Grendel, told from the perspective of the monster in an epic tale with strong fairy tale elements, Beowulf. Gardner’s story about Grendel helps us to understand that villainy is not black and white, or at the very least we come to understand the tragic underpinnings that form an evil character.

Scientist Albert Einstein would say that fairy tales also stretch our imaginations. ““When I examine myself and my methods of thought,” he says, “I come to the conclusion that the gift of fantasy has meant more to me than any talent for abstract, positive thinking.” Certainly the artists’ creations shown in this post are evidence of the role fairy tales play in regard to creativity.

Fairy tales are not just for children. Walt Disney based his Magic Kingdom on a fairy tale model, we talk about stories, romances and lives with a fairy tale ending, and let’s not forget about fairy tale weddings planned for and by the celebrities. Films such as “Ever After,” “Ella Enchanted,” “The Princess Bride” and “Mirror Mirror” earn big dollars on the silver screen. There is a resurgence of modern retakes on old fairy tales with television series such as “Once Upon a Time,” “Grimm,” and “The Charmings.” There’s even a fairy tale-suggestive gadget called Magic Wand that connects Apple’s Magic Trackpad to your Apple Wireless Keyboard, and a stain remover stick by the same name, made by Dritz. Let’s face it: fairy tales are not just magical; they’re big business.

Although this post can’t possibly be an all-in-one resource for free fairy tales you can explore to feed your Muse, here are a few places you can locate fairy tales from around the world, besides your local library or bookstore:

Don’t forget that you can download a free book reader for your smart phone, such as Free Books for iPad by Digital Press Publishing or Bluefire Reader, and simply search for “fairy tales.” You’ll be surprised at how many collections are available.

Have you ever designed something or written a poem or story that was inspired by a fairy tale?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Aug 302014
 

I collect books about bookbinding, so when I was reading a review on Amazon about Little Book of Book Making, by Charlotte Rivers, I noticed the review was written by someone who had received the book from the publisher through a program called “Blogging for Books.” What’s that? I wondered. I’ve done book reviews on this Web site previously, usually books intended for giveaways, but always bought the books myself. It turns out that Blogging for Books is a Web site that solicits book reviews from bloggers by sending them a free book they request.

Are things as simple as they sound? Is there a catch? Well . . . the jury is still out because I went ahead and signed up, and now must wait for the first book to arrive. But the system sounds fair. You create an account in which you provide your name and address, some reading preferences, and of course your blog address. Then, you’re presented with a list of books that you can request. You choose one of them, it takes 10-14 business days to arrive, and you are required to provide a review within 90 days. The review must disclose, according to Federal Trade Commission (FTC) rules, that you received a free book in exchange for your honest review. You get to keep the book. The book I requested was A Beautiful Mess Happy Handmade Home, by Elsie Larson and Emma Chapman. I placed the request two business days ago, so the clock is now ticking concerning its arrival date.

A Beautiful Mess

There are a few details about the Blogging for Books program that I discovered only after I started my application. The first is that the number of books that are available for you to review can be quite small if you don’t have a lot of influence. Influence is measured on a Klout scale, and purportedly your Klout score needs to be 40 or higher before you get better access to books. I had no idea what my Klout score was because . . . surprise, surprise . . . I didn’t have a Klout account. So, I went ahead and signed up for that, learning that your Twitter activity is assessed for your Klout score. We’re in trouble here, I thought. I have a Twitter account, but don’t tweet a great deal. But I went ahead and completed the application, and sure enough, my Klout score was measured at a measly 23, not the magical number of 40 that gets you better access to books. I don’t know why, but Klout brings to mind a collective row of fists, a not-very-happy connection.

Image courtesy of Teerapun at DigitalPhotos.net

Image courtesy of Teerapun at DigitalPhotos.net

But you can improve your Klout score by following the suggestions that are on your account page, such as following more people, posting more meaningful content more frequently, and connecting your Facebook, Google Plus and other social networking accounts. So, I did that, too, but there was no change in my score until this morning, after I switched the connection from my Facebook personal account to my Facebook fan page, This Creative Journey. Then, my Klout score jumped to 46, but of course I had already requested my book from the few available for me to review. I should add that I probably reduced significantly the number of available books by not choosing fiction books as one of my reading preferences. I love to read fiction, but for the most part don’t think that a review of fiction books fits the purpose of this Web site. But I reserve the right to change my mind. After all, if you read to the end of this post, you’ll note that my Blogging for Books experience thus far caused me to draw a connection between it and a book of fiction.

While I was on the Blogging for Books site, I noticed that you can also increase the number of books you can review by opting in to receive e-books. Well, I own an iPad Mini, so why not? In order to opt in, though, you need to download Bluefire Reader. I have five book reader apps on my iPad already, I thought, so what’s one more? But before I could do that, I had to sign up for an Adobe ID. I was pretty sure I had done that at some point, but when I visited the Adobe site to check, of course I had forgotten my password. So, I signed up for a password reset, took care of that, then visited the iTunes store to locate Bluefire Reader, which then asks for your Adobe password before you can use the reader. Happily, once I got my Bluefire Reader to open, I discovered hundreds, maybe thousands, of free classic books to download, many of which duplicate the classic books found on my Free Books for iPad reader by Digital Press Publishing, and that you can also find when you visit the Google Books Web site. The first book I opened showed a white screen with no title, so apparently it’s not as slick as these other free readers. But I’m getting away from my original point, and I suspect that free book sources is probably a future post.

After all of these account sign-ups, you might imagine I considered whether it was worth it to write a book review in exchange for a free book. I wondered again when I opened my e-mail this morning and found a message from Klout that said:

Hello,

Your Klout Score went up!

Your Klout Score has jumped up. Come on over to learn what’s working and what you can do to work on that momentum.

See My Score.

Sincerely,

Your Friends at Team Klout

I am reminded, I’m afraid, of a book I read earlier this year called The Circle, by Dave Eggers, about a future dystopian world in which everyone is connected by an Internet corporation called the Circle that ranks your social influence by the number of social networks you join, the people or entitities you follow, and the comments you make. The main character in that book, Mae Holland, loses her identify in the Circle and has no time for real relationships because she spends all of her waking hours with Circle social networking endeavors. Sound familiar? I think the future described in The Circle is actually here today, but perhaps not as exaggerated. And Klout reminds me eerily of the Circle. I don’t intend to change my social networking habits, but apparently it is a necessary evil to have an account there, if you want to participate in the Blogging for Books program and get more access to free books.

The Circle

To be fair, on the other hand, I suppose the publisher wants to feel it is getting its money’s worth out of the reviewer, and one way of determining whether anyone would even read yours is an assessment of your influence. The publisher expects you’ll write two or three paragraphs, not two or three sentences; it wouldn’t surprise me to find out that the length of the review you write, and the responses you get, are built into the Klout algorithm. Some degree of accountability is necessary.

I’m open to learning about other ways to review books in exchange for receiving free ones. There is probably not a free lunch anywhere, but got any ideas?

© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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Aug 292014
 

We’re not quite there yet, not quite into autumn, but with the three-day Labor weekend upon us, I know that fall and all of my favorite colors, scents and textures are nearly upon us. So, I hope you’ll forgive me if I cut summer somewhat short with a browse through Etsy for orange items, the color that stands out to me as most representative—and certainly the most vibrant—one of the season. If you’re not going anywhere special this weekend, celebrate fall by visiting the shops below. Just click on the photo, and you’ll be whisked to the treasury I curated, where all of the links are. Happy fall a la oh-RAHNZH!

Autumn a la orange© 2014 Judy Nolan. All rights reserved.

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